How To Protect Your Money In The Digital Age Among Sophisticated Fraud Schemes

“I think I’ve been hacked.”

“I got an email saying my phone number had been changed, but I didn’t change it.”

“I don’t know how they got my information!”

I receive calls and emails daily regarding fraud attempts — very creative ones. Surprisingly, the clients usually never know what made them susceptible to the fraud. Unfortunately, it is becoming easier and easier to get hacked, and it is just going to get even easier as our dependence on technology grows and as our personal information becomes more readily available on the mysterious interweb.

For goodness sake, you can pay for your groceries with your phone! When was the last time you saw a paper application? Shoot, my doctor doesn’t even have a paper sign up sheet anymore. You have to use this tablet device to input the date of your last menstrual cycle. It is not going away. We must adapt. We have to learn to live with it, safely. In this article I cover some ways you can help protect your personal information.

I’ve been in the business of finance and banking for 13 years now — my entire professional career. I’ve seen it all. I’ve witnessed forgery, customer impersonators, robbery, wire fraud, and so much more I’m probably not supposed to talk about. But, with that being said, I’ve become attentive to figuring out how to mitigate fraud. Some techniques can be quite complex, but others completely simple! I will focus on the later. But, first, let’s cover four of the most prevalent fraud situations I have seen lately.

Account Takeover Fraud

Imagine someone gets a hold of your online account credentials. Now they have access to everything: addresses, account numbers, balances, email address, dates of birth. Now, they could sell this information on the black market or simply use it as their own. They change your mailing address to their’s, change your phone number, email address, and order a replacement credit card. It is so simple, and it happens all the time.

How to Protect Yourself

  • Use advanced authentication if your bank’s online banking utilizes it. Typically, these systems require a code to be sent to your phone when you log in.

  • Change your passwords often, and make it complex. Use uppercase, lowercase, and special characters. Don’t save these passwords on your phone’s Notes section.

  • Add a password to your bank account. An account representative has to verify this special password before offering any account information over the phone.

Debit and Credit Card Fraud

You buy gas at the gas station, and you don’t realize the card swiper has a device called a skimmer on it. It collects the card information stored on the magnetic strip. The fraudster can now use this information to make purchases online or through a counterfeit card. You don’t realize anything is wrong until you look at your account and see the transactions. These devices can be placed on ATMs, gas stations, or any other swiping device.

How to Protect Yourself

  • Know what you are looking for. Have you ever heard of a skimming device?

  • Check for raised edges on card swiping devices. Does it feel loose?

  • Use high traffic ATMs. They are less likely to be skimmed.

  • Cover your pin when you type it in. Fraudsters sometimes plant tiny cameras to access pin information.

Phishing

You likely seen the Nigerian Prince emails promising you thousands in cash, but fraudsters are becoming pretty sophisticated in the phishing game. Now, they have expanded their reach-texting and vishing (over the phone). Fraudsters will now text you with a generic looking bank text saying you need to click on a link and log into your account to verify your information. Let me tell you, banks will not send you a text message telling you to click on a link to log in. Banks will not send you generic emails telling you to click on a link. They will always tell you to visit the website. I have seen emails that look exactly like a legitimate email, almost word for word, which link you to a bank website that looks almost identical to the legitimate site. Remember, fraud is an industry all it’s own. They are good at it!

How to Protect Yourself

  • Don’t click on links!

  • Bring any phishing attempts to the attention of your bank.

  • Change passwords often.

  • Run virus scans.

Email Wire Fraud

Another example of phishing, but I thought it deserved it’s own section because of its frequency lately. How does it work? Hackers monitor email accounts and may discover key information — like the fact you are buying a house soon and the closing attorney will be sending you wire instructions. Or, you just planned a nice vacation and the company you work with decided a wire transfer is the easiest form of payment. The hackers monitor emails, intercept the wiring instructions, and switch out the closing attorney’s information with their own! Congratulations. You are now funding MS-13!

How to Protect Yourself

  • Regularly change your passwords.

  • Verify all wire information, using a phone number known to you. Do not call the number on the wire instructions.

  • If you have an advisor that sends wires on your behalf, ensure they speak to you directly for every wire. If you have a family office that sends wires on your behalf, ensure they have a dual control process of verification before funds are sent.

You don’t have to be ultra wealthy to be a victim of these types of frauds. Fraudsters don’t discriminate. They will access the most accessible information.

So, listen up folks, protect your information. Change passwords frequently, add layers of authentication, don’t click on just any link, and pay attention to your account transactions. If you are unsure about any of these steps you can reach me at lauraelizabeth01@gmail.com, or just leave a message. I’m happy to help!